The Senate panel OKs the satellite-broadcaster retrans legislation without the Local Choice provision sought by cable.
On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA). The legislation did not include the “Local Choice” broadcast-only a la carte proposal that broadcasters objected to and that the cable industry supported.
Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman and ranking member of committee, issued the following statement following passage: “We are pleased that the committee today advanced the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) that would ensure 1.5 million satellite pay TV subscribers maintain access to distant broadcast network television signals and would make several pro-consumer reforms to the nation’s video policy.
“It is always hard to find unanimity in the legislative process, but we think our bill is a strong, bipartisan consensus measure that we hope garners widespread support as it moves to the floor. Those 1.5 million Americans are dependent on Congress acting on the STELA reauthorization before the end of the year – something we hope our colleagues remember as STAVRA advances through the legislative process.
“And although Local Choice proved to be something that was too big and bold to be included in STAVRA due to the limited time we have, we are pleased that we were able to start a conversation about the proposal, a conversation which we intend to continue.”
Others commenting on the bill included:
American Cable Association President-CEO Matthew M. Polka: “ACA salutes Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Thune for their hard work over many months leading up to today’s important Senate Commerce Committee vote to approve the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act, a bill that makes big strides in reforming several outdated video competition laws, especially retransmission consent. Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Thune deserve high praise for drafting a bill that represents a clear break with the status quo, and their cooperative approach affirms our faith in the notion that bipartisanship is an essential ingredient to producing good public policy.”
TVfreedom.org spokesman Robert C. Kenny: “We are encouraged by the Senate Commerce Committee’s bipartisan effort to eliminate provisions that would have hurt the public interest and cost consumers considerably more on their monthly pay TV bill. We now need a greater public dialogue about the future of the video marketplace, and how to best protect consumers from greedy pay TV providers. In the days ahead, our 28-member broad-based coalition will continue to engage lawmakers, policymakers, consumer advocacy groups and industry leaders to preserve the basic tier and protect consumers’ interests.”
Kenny also praised Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) for introducing an amendment that would require the FCC to implement a new standard to preserve competition in the set-top box marketplace. “Consumers continue to be saddled with excessive rental fees and hidden charges that pay TV companies use to nickel-and-dime subscribers to pad their bottom lines,” said Kenny. “Sen. Markey’s amendment is a step towards curbing the estimated $7 billion consumers are forced to pay every year in gratuitous set-top box leasing fees.”
DirecTV and Dish Network: “We thank Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Thune and the rest of the Senate Commerce Committee for passing bipartisan legislation that makes important reforms to the outdated laws governing today’s video market, while ensuring continuity of service to more than 1.5 million distant signal subscribers who would, otherwise, lose service at the end of this year. We look forward to working with congressional leadership to see this reauthorization swiftly passed into law, and also look forward to continuing the important discussion regarding retransmission consent reform, and in particular protecting consumers from local channel blackouts.”